Waterbird and Vegetation Responses to 10 Years of Restoration at an Illinois River Floodplain Wetland Complex

Christopher S. Hine, Heath M. Hagy, Aaron P. Yetter, Michelle M. Horath, Joshua M. Osborn, Randolph V. Smith, Joshua D. Stafford

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The historic importance of the Illinois River valley (IRV) to waterbirds has been well documented. Previous studies have suggested waterbird use may serve as an indicator of wetland health or a measure of restoration success. Restoration of the historic Thompson and Flag lakes, currently known as Emiquon Preserve (Emiquon), in Fulton County, Illinois was initiated by The Nature Conservancy in 2007. Emiquon, a 2,200-ha former floodplain of the Illinois River that was isolated behind levees and farmed for >80 years, has been undergoing restoration to a wetland complex during the last 10 years. The Nature Conservancy identified key ecological attributes (KEAs) of specific biological characteristics to guide restoration efforts and evaluate success at Emiquon. We monitored the response of waterbirds and wetland vegetation to restoration at Emiquon during 2007–2016 to evaluate achievement of desired conditions under relevant KEAs. Our primary efforts included assessing: 1) abundance, diversity, and behavior of waterfowl and other waterbirds through counts and observations; 2) productivity by waterfowl and other waterbirds through brood counts; 3) plant seed and invertebrate biomass as forage for waterfowl during migration; and 4) composition and arrangement of wetland vegetation communities through geospatial covermapping. Results indicated waterfowl and other waterbirds visited Emiquon in large numbers each autumn and spring with peaks of 4.3–5.6 million use days for ducks and American coots (Fulica americana), respectively. Emiquon is important to certain species of waterbirds compared to other locations in the IRV. Vegetation communities provided an abundance of forage for fall-migrating ducks (20–30 million energetic use days). Furthermore, Emiquon hosts vegetation communities that are rare to connected backwaters of the Illinois River. However, recent declines in some vegetation communities and duck use indicate the need for management efforts to reset the wetland vegetation cycle at Emiquon.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2018
Event2018 Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference - Milwaukee, United States
Duration: Jan 28 2018Jan 31 2018
Conference number: 78


Conference2018 Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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